Archive for June, 2012

Working at it

I’m pleased to have been asked to do some paid work involving racing history, which has entailed a little fresh research, and learning about a part of the IT world that I hadn’t used before.  This particular task may be only a one-off – and it’s almost finished – but being paid to do something I enjoy is an ambition realised.  Nevertheless, it won’t supplant the day job in a hurry.

Working on this has precluded research on my existing projects.  I’m reminded that the British Library have been nagging me about providing copies of my latest two books, as they want a reference copy of every ISBN.  (So do some of the big regional libraries, but I can’t imagine demand for my books will be high in the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales.)  I really ought to take a couple in to the BL when I am next there to do some research.  I also need to top up on culture at the Horse from Arabia to Ascot exhibition at the British Museum.   And to book Dandy Dick and see what the programme notes say.

I dressed for winter when getting out of the car at Fontwell for an evening meeting there a few days ago.  The sun was shining and I thought I might have overdone it.  Not at all.  By the time I got to the entrance it was pouring with rain.  The next three hours brought a mixture of drizzle driven across the course by strong winds, and pregnant pauses under threatening skies as we waited for the next squall.  Watching the fourth race, those of us sheltered well under the grandstand roof who thought we were out of range of wetness let out collective groans more than once when particularly vigorous bursts of rain swept in horizontally from the side and drenched us.  Quite a few left after that race, but many of us had enjoyed free entry thanks to an offer in the local papers.  Let’s hope their Ladies Night on 16 August has better weather; that’s always a lively occasion, with a tribute band, Best Dressed Lady competition, sideshows, ballyhoo and a bit of racing thrown in.

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Since last time I’ve had another meeting with the man who’s writing the theatre programme notes for the Dandy Dick stage show.   Interestingly he has made a career of this sort of work.  He does this for a variety of theatres, and interviews cast members for articles that are syndicated to the local papers when a show is going on tour round the country.  We first met at Brighton a few weeks ago.  This time he came armed with a long list of questions for me about racing at Brighton and in the 19th century generally, which is relevant background to the play; to quote the advertisements for it, 

“It tells the hilarious story of the Very Reverend Augustin Jedd, a pillar of Victorian respectability. A visit from his tearaway sister leads him to risk all at the races, much against his better judgement. Mayhem ensues, with romantic intrigue, mistaken identity and a runaway horse…”

I hope I will see my name, if not in lights, then in some theatre programmes.  I will definitely see the play when it’s on tour.  I hope it does better than the last Brighton play I had anything to do with.  Some years ago I advised (in a very small way) the producers of Brighton Rock – The Musical, which ran at the Almeida in Islington.  John Barry had written the music.  Yes, the John Barry of James Bond, Midnight Cowboy and Out of Africa fame.  I enjoyed the show, but the critics didn’t, and I believe it was never performed again.

I completed my piece for the chap organising the Bath Pageant of Motoring, which he accepted verbatim.

I find that fellow researcher William’s work on racing history is more extensive than I thought and this may cut across one of  my own half-formed plans.  Yet there is more than one way of telling the same story; my rendition of the Francasal case in the Bath book is different from that in David Ashforth’s Ringers and Rascals, despite the facts at the heart of it being the same.

I went to a lecture at the British Museum on the history of horses in Iran from their domestication in around 3000 BC down to the beginning of the Islamic period in the 7th century AD.   That’s not really my strongest subject, but the aim was to meet a friend there.  It was advertised as free, so that was fine.  To our surprise, outside the lecture theatre there was a large gathering of delegates from societies of anthropologists, with free drinks and nibbles!  We were easily able to blend in with the behaviour those tribes exhibited.  We must make a date for next year’s equivalent lecture.

Luckily my employment situation has been resolved and I am staying with the same organisation after all, but in a different department.  While that means no acceleration in the speed of my research, at least it means I can afford to carry on the current happy mix of  racing and study.

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